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25 April, 2018

Christian Courage and Resolution

[Christian courage and resolution 
—wherefore necessary.]  Continued.....

Third.—The Christian must keep on his way to heaven in the midst of all the scandals that are cast upon the ways of God by the apostasy and foul falls of false professors.  There were ever such in the church, who by their sad miscarriages in judgement and practice have laid a stone of offence in the way of profession, at which weak Christians are ready to make a stand, as they at the bloody body of Asahel, II Sam. 2:22, not knowing whether they may venture any further in their profession, seeing such, whose gifts they so much admired, lie before them, wallowing in the blood of their slain profession: [from being] zealous professors, to prove perhaps fiery persecutors; [from being] strict performers of religious duties, [to prove] irreligious atheists: no more like the men they were some years past, than the vale of Sodom (now a bog and a quagmire) is, to what it was, when for fruitfulness compared to the garden of the Lord.  We had need of a holy resolution to bear up against such discouragements, and not to faint; as Joshua, who lived to see the whole camp of Israel, a very few excepted, revolting, and in their hearts turning back to Egypt, and yet with an undaunted spirit maintained his integrity, yea, resolved though not a man beside would bear him company, yet he would serve the Lord.
             Fourth.—The Christian must trust in a with­draw­ing God, Isa.  50:10.  Let him that walks in darkness, and sees no light, trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.  This requires a holy boldness of faith indeed, to venture into God's presence, as Esther into Ahasuerus’, when no smile is to be seen on his face, no golden sceptre of the promise per­ceived by the soul, as held forth to embolden it to come near, then to press in with this noble resolution, 'If I perish, I per­ish,’ Est. 4:16.  Nay, more, to trust not only in a with­drawing but a 'killing God,’ Job 13:15; not when his love is hid, but when his wrath breaks forth.  Now for a soul to make its approaches to God by a recumbency of faith, while God seems to fire upon it, and shoot his frowns like envenomed arrows into it, is hard work, and will try the Christian's mettle to purpose.  Yet such a masculine spirit we find in the poor woman of Canaan, who takes up the bullets of Christ shot at her, and with a humble boldness of faith sends them back again in her prayer.
             Fifth.—The believer is to persevere in his Christian course to the end of his life: his work and his life must go off the stage together.  This adds weight to every other difficulty of the Christian's calling.  We have known many who have gone into the field, and liked the work of a soldier for a battle or two, but soon have had enough, and come running home again, but few can bear it as a constant trade.  Many are soon engaged in holy duties, easily persuaded to take up a profession of religion, and as easily persuaded to lay it down, like the new moon, which shines a little in the first part of the night, but is down before half the night is gone—lightsome professors in their youth, whose old age is wrapped up in thick darkness of sin and wickedness.  O, this persevering is a hard word! this taking up the cross daily, this praying always, this watching night and day, and never laying aside our clothes and armour, I mean indulging ourselves, to remit and unbend in our holy waiting on God, and walking with God.  This sends many sorrowful away from Christ, yet this is a saint's duty, to make religion his every-day work, without any vacation from one end of the year to the other.  These few instances are enough to show what need the Christian hath of resolution.  The application follows.

[Use or Application]
             Use First.—This gives us reason why there are so many professors and so few Christians indeed; so many that run and so few obtain; so many go into the field against Satan, and so few come out conquerors; because all have a desire to be happy, but few have courage and resolution to grapple with the difficulties that meet them in the way to their happiness.  All Israel came joyfully out of Egypt under Moses' con­duct, yea, and a mixed multitude with them, but when their bellies were pinched with a little hunger, and the greedy desires of a present Canaan deferred, yea, instead of peace and plenty, war and penury, they, like white‑livered soldiers, are ready to fly from their colours, and make a dishonorable retreat into Egypt.  Thus the greatest part of those who profess the gospel, when they come to push of pike, to be tried what they will do, deny to endure for Christ, grow sick of their enterprise.  Alas! their hearts fail them, they are like the waters of Bethlehem.  But if they must dispute their passage with so many enemies, they will even content themselves with their own cistern, and leave heaven to others who will venture more for it.  O how many part with Christ at this cross-way!  Like Orpah, they go a furlong or two with Christ, while he goes to take them off from their worldly hopes, and bids them prepare for hardship, and then they fairly kiss and leave him, loath indeed to lose heaven, but more loath to buy it at so dear a rate.  Like some green heads, that childishly make choice at some sweet trade, such as is the confectioner's, from a liquorish tooth they have to the junkets it affords, but meeting with sour sauce of labour and toil that goes with them, they give in, and are weary of their service.  So the sweet bait of religion hath drawn many to nibble at it, who are offended with the hard service it calls to.  It requires another spirit than the world can give or receive to follow Christ fully.

24 April, 2018

The Christian Is To Proclaim And Prosecute an Irreconcilable War Against His Bosom Sins



PART FIRST 


The Christian Is To Proclaim And Prosecute an Irreconcilable War Against His Bosom Sins... Continued...


             Who is able to express the conflicts, the wres­tlings, the convulsions of spirit the Christian feels, before
he can bring his heart to this work?  Or who can fully set forth the art, the rhetorical insinua­tions, with which such a lust will plead for itself?  One while Satan will extenuate and mince the matter: It is but a little one, O spare it, and thy soul shall live for all that.  Another while he flatters the soul with the secrecy of it: Thou mayest keep me and thy credit also; I will not be seen abroad in thy company to shame thee among thy neighbours; shut me up in the most retired room thou hast in thy heart, from the hearing of others, if thou wilt only let me now and then have the wanton embraces of thy thoughts and affections in secret.  If that cannot be granted, then Satan will seem only to desire execution may be stayed awhile, as Jephthah's daughter of her father: 'let me alone a month or two, and then do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth,’ Judges 11:36, 37, well knowing few such reprieved lusts but at last obtain their full pardon; yea, recover their favour with the soul.  

Now what resolution doth it require to break through such violence and importunity, and notwithstanding all this to do present execution?  Here the valiant swordsmen of the world have showed themselves mere cowards, who have come out of the field with victorious banners, and then lived, yea, died slaves to a base lust at home. As one could say of a great Roman captain who, as he rode in his triumphant chariot through Rome, had his eye never off a courtesan that walked along the street: Behold, how this goodly captain, that had conquered such potent armies, is himself conquered by one silly woman.

             Second.—The Christian is to walk singularly, not after the world's guise, Rom. 12:2.  We are com­manded not to be conformed to this world, that is, not to accommodate ourselves to the corrupt customs of the world.  The Christian must not be of such a complying nature as to cut the coat of his profession according to the fashion of the times, or the humor of the company he falls into; like that courtier, who being asked how he could keep his preferment in such changing times, which one while had a prince for Popery, another while against Popery, answered, he was e salice, non ex quercu ortus—he was not a stubborn oak, but bending osier, that could yield to the wind.  No, the Christian must stand fixed to his principles, and not change his habit; but freely show what countryman he is by his holy constancy in the truth.  Now what an odium, what snares, what dan­gers doth this singularity expose the Christian to? 

 Some will hoot and mock him, as one in a Spanish fashion would be laughed at in your streets.  Thus Michal flouted David.  Indeed, the world counts the Christian for his singularity of life the only fool; which I have thought gave the first occasion to that nick-name, whereby men commonly express a silly man or a fool.  Such a one, say they, is a mere Abraham; that is, in the world's account, a fool.  But why an Abraham?  Because Abraham did that which car­nal reason, the world's idol, laugh's at as mere folly; he left a present estate in his father's house to go he knew not whither, to receive an inheritance he knew not when.  And truly such fools all the saints are branded for by the wise world. 

 'You know the man and his communication,’ said Jehu to his companions, asking what that mad fellow came for, who was no other than a prophet, II Kings 9:11.  Now it requires courage to despise the shame which the Christian must expect to meet withal for his singularity.  Shame is that which proud nature most disdains, to avoid which many durst not 'confess Christ openly,’ John 7:13.  Many lose heaven because they are ashamed to go in a fool's coat thither.  Again, as some will mock, so others will persecute to death, merely for this nonconformity in the Christian's principles and prac­tices to them.  This was the trap laid for the three children; they must dance before Nebuchadnezzar's pipe, or burn. 

This was the plot laid to ensnare Daniel, who walked so unblameably, that his very enemies gave him this testimony, that he had no fault but his singularity in his religion, Dan. 6:5.  It is a great honour to a Christian, yea, to religion itself, when all their enemies can say is, They are precise, and will not do as we do.  Now in such a case as this, when the Christian must turn or burn, leave praying, or become a prey to the cruel teeth of bloody men; how many politic retreats and self-preserving distinctions would a cowardly unresolved heart invent?  The Christian that hath so great opposition had need be well locked into the saddle of his profession, or else he will soon be dismounted.

23 April, 2018

A SWEET AND POWERFUL ENCOURAGEMENT TO THE WAR

PART FIRST

A SWEET AND POWERFUL ENCOURAGEMENT TO THE WAR
"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord,
and in the power of his might.’  — Eph. 6:10

            
 The apostle begins his speech with the word of encouragement to battle: 'Finally, my brethren, be
strong in the Lord;’ the best way indeed to prepare them for the following directions.  A soul deeply possessed with fear, and dispirited with strong apprehensions of danger, is in no posture for counsel.  As we see in any army when put to flight by some sudden alarm, or apprehension of danger, it is hard rallying them into order until the fright occasioned thereby is over; therefore the apostle first raiseth up their spirits, 'be strong in the Lord.’  As if he should say, Perhaps some drooping souls find their hearts fail them, while they see their enemies so strong, and they so weak; so numerous, and they so few; so well appointed, and they so naked and unarmed; so skilful and expert at arms, but they green and raw soldiers.  Let not these or any other thoughts dismay you; but with undaunted courage march on, and be strong in the Lord, on whose per­formance lies the stress of battle, and not on your skill or strength.  It is not the least of a minister's care and skill in dividing the word, so to press the Christian's duty, as not to oppress his spirit with the weight of it, by laying it on the creature's own shoulders, and not on the Lord's strength, as here our apostle teacheth us.  In this verse (under four heads or branches), We have first, A familiar appellation, 'my brethren.’  second, An exhortation, 'be strong.’  third, A cautionary direction annexed to the exhortation, 'in the Lord.’  fourth, An encouraging amplification of the direction, 'and in the power of his might,’ or in his mighty power.



BRANCHES FIRST AND SECOND.

The appellation, 'my brethren.’—The exhortation, 'be strong.’

             We have, Branch First, a familiar appellation, 'my brethren.’  This we shall waive, and begin with,
Branch Second, the exhortation—'be strong;’ that is, be of good courage, so commonly used in scripture phrase: 'Be strong and courageous,’ II Chr. 32:7; 'Say to them that are of a fearful heart, 'Be strong,’ Isa. 35:4. Or, unite all the powers of your souls, and muster up your whole force, for you will have use for all you can make or get.  From whence the point is this.

[Christian courage and resolution —wherefore necessary.]

             Doctrine, The Christian of all men needs courage and resolution.  Indeed there is nothing that he does as a Christian, or can do, but is an act of valour.  A cowardly spirit is beneath the lowest duty of a Christian, 'be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest’—What? stand in battle against those warlike nations?  No, but that thou mayest 'observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee,’ Joshua 1:7.  It requires more prowess and greatness of spirit to obey God faithfully, than to command an army of men; to be a Christian than a captain.  What seems less, than for a Christian to pray? yet this cannot be performed aright without a princely spirit: as Jacob is said to behave himself like a prince, when he did but pray; for which he came out of the field God's banneret.  Indeed if you call that prayer, which a carnal person performs, nothing is more poor and dastard-like.  Such an one is as great a stranger to this enterprise, as the craven soldier to the exploits of a valiant chieftain. The Christian in prayer comes up close to God, with a humble boldness of faith, and takes hold of him, wrestles with him; yea, will not let him go with­out a blessing, and all this in the face of his own sins, and divine justice, which let fly upon him from the fiery mouth of the law; while the other's boldness in prayer is but the child, either of ignorance in his mind, or hardness in his heart; whereby not feeling his sins, and not knowing his danger, he rushes upon duty with a blind confidence, which soon quails when conscience awakes, and gives him the alarm, that his sins are upon him, as the Philistines on Samson: alas, then in a fright the poor-spirited wretch throws down his weapon, flies the presence of God with guilty Adam, and dares not look him in the face.  Indeed there is no duty in the Christian's whole course of walking with God, or acting for God but is lined with many difficulties, which shoot like enemies through the hedges at him, while he is marching towards heaven: so that he is put to dispute every inch of ground as he goes.  They are only a few noble-spirited souls, who dare take heaven by force, that are fit for this calling.  For the further proof of this point, see some few pieces of service that every Christian engageth in.
             First.—The Christian is to proclaim and prosecute an irreconcilable war against his bosom sins; those sins which have lain nearest his heart, must now be trampled under his feet.  So David, 'I have kept myself from my iniquity.’  Now what courage and resolution does this require?  You think Abraham was tried to purpose, when called to take his 'son, his son Isaac, his only son whom he loved,’ Gen. 22:2, and offer him up with his own hands, and no other; yet what was that to this?  Soul, take thy lust, thy only lust, which is the child of thy dearest love, thy Isaac, the sin which has caused the most joy and laughter, from which thou hast promised thyself the greatest return of pleasure or profit; as ever thou lookest to see my face with comfort, lay hands on it and offer it up: pour out the blood of it before me; run the sacrificing knife of mortification into the very heart of it; and this freely, joyfully, for it is no pleasing sacrifice that is offered with a countenance cast down —and all this now, before thou hast one embrace more from it.  Truly this is a hard chapter, flesh and blood cannot bear this saying; our lust will not lie so patiently on the altar, as Isaac, or as a 'Lamb that is brought to the slaughter which was dumb,’ but will roar and shriek; yea, even shake and rend the heart with its hideous outcries.
           

22 April, 2018

A treatise of The Whole Armour of God

I have been reading these volumes and found them to be FOOD FOR THE SOUL of every true Christian. As I read the description of every part of the ARMOUR OF GOD and what they are used for, what I like reading the most is the APPLICATION of each piece of the armour.

Because there is so much to read, and it takes so long, I decided to share with you daily, in the hope that we would take the time to read and reflect on the christian's spiritual warfare and together becoming GREAT SPIRITUAL WARRIORS.

So, to all the Pilgrims out there travelling toward the gates of heaven where Christ is waiting with open arms, welcome.

A treatise of
The Whole Armour of God
          "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.  Put on the whole armour of God,
that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
          "Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
          "Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”
— Ephesians 6:10-20.

The Introduction

          Paul was now in bonds, yet not so close kept as to be denied pen and paper; God, it seems, gave him some favour in the sight of his enemies: Paul was Nero's prisoner, but Nero was much more God's.  And while God had work for Paul, he found him friends both in court and prison.  Let persecutors send saints to prison, God can provide a keeper for their turn.
          But how does this great apostle spend his time in prison?  Not in publishing invectives against those, though the worst of men, who had laid him in; a piece of zeal which the holy sufferers of those times were little acquainted with: nor in politic counsels, how he might wind himself out of his trouble, by sordid flattery of, or sinful compliance with, the great ones of the times.  Some would have used any picklock to have opened a passage to their liberty and not scrupled, so escape they might, whether they got out at the door or window.  But this holy man was not so fond of liberty or life, as to purchase them at the least hazard to the gospel.  He knew too much of another world, to bid so high for the enjoying of this; and therefore he is regardless what his enemies can do with him, well knowing he should go to heaven whether they would or no.  No, the great care which lay upon him, was for the churches of Christ; as a faithful steward he labors to set the house of God in order before his departure.  We read of no despatches sent to court to procure his liberty; but many to the churches, to help them to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ had made them free.  There is no such way to be even with the devil and his instruments, for all their spite against us, as by doing what good we can wherever we be come.
          The devil had as good have let Paul alone, for he no sooner comes into prison but he falls a preaching, at which the gates of Satan's prison fly open, and poor sinners come forth.  Happy for Onesimus that Paul was sent to jail; God had an errand for Paul to do to him and others, which the devil never dreamed of.  Nay he doth not only preach in prison, but that he may do the devil all the mischief he can, he sends his epistles to the churches, that tasting his spirit in his afflictions, and reading his faith, now ready to be offered up, they might much more be confirmed; amongst which Ephesus was not least in his thoughts, as you may perceive by his abode with them two years together, Acts 19:10; as also by his sending for the elders of this church as far as Miletus, in his last journey to Jerusalem, Acts 20:17, to take his farewell of them as never to see their faces in this world more.  And surely the sad impression which that heart-breaking departure left on the spirits of these elders, yea, the whole church, by them acquainted with this mournful news, might stir up Paul, now in prison, to write unto this church, that having so much of his spirit, yea, of the spirit of the gospel, left in their hands to converse with, they might more patiently take the news of his death.
          In the former part of this epistle, he soars high in the mysteries of faith.  In the latter, according to his usual method, he descends to application; where we find him contracting all those truths, as beams together, in a powerful exhortation, the more to enkindle their hearts, and powerfully persuade them to 'walk worthy of their vocation,’ Eph. 4:1, which then is done, when the Christian's life is so transparent that the grace of the gospel shines forth in the power of holiness on every side, and from all his relations, as a candle in a crystal glass, not in a dark lantern, lightsome one way and dark another: and therefore he runs over the several relations of husband, wife, parents, children, masters, and servants, and presseth the same in all these.
          Now having set every one in his proper place, about his particular duty; as a wise general after he has ranged his army, and drawn them forth into rank and file, he makes the following speech at the head of the Ephesian camp, all in martial phrase, as best suiting the Christian's calling, which is a continued warfare with the world, and the prince of the world.  The speech itself contains two parts.
First, A short but sweet and powerful encouragement, Eph. 6:10.  Secondly, The other part is spent in several directions for their managing this war the more successfully, with some motives here and there sprinkled among them, Eph. 6:11-20.  We begin with the first.

21 April, 2018

Extracts from the writings of William Gurnall-A BASKET OF FRAGMENTS

A BASKET OF FRAGMENTS

"The words of the wise are as goads." Ecclesiastes 12:11.

THE believer is to persevere in his Christian course to the end of his life; his work and his life must go off the stage together.

The fearful are in the forlorn of those who march to hell (Rev. 21:8).

O how uncomely a sight is it, a bold sinner, and a fearful saint!

Christ never lost a battle even when He lost His life.

He that has God's heart cannot want His arm.

This goodly fabric of heaven and earth has not been built, but as a stage whereon God would in time act what He decreed in heaven of old.

One Almighty is more than many mighties. All these mighty sins and devils make not any almighty sin, or an almighty devil.

A proud heart and a lofty mountain are never fruitful.

"Pray." But how? "Without ceasing."

"Rejoice." But when? "Evermore."

"Give thanks." For what? "In everything."

God will not have His kingdom, either in the heart or in the world, maintained by carnal policy.
When afflicted, love can allow thee to groan, but not to grumble.

Mercy should make us ashamed, wrath afraid to sin.

Whoever thou art, thou art base-born till born again.

Christ and Satan divide the whole world; Christ will bear no equal, and Satan no superior, and therefore hold in with both thou canst not.

Sin only sets Satan in the throne.

Sinners dying in their sins, cannot hope to have a better resurrection than they have a death.

Since man was turned out of paradise, he can do nothing without labour, except sin.

We must either lay self aside, or God will lay us aside.

Bernard used to say, when he heard any scandalous sin of a professor, Hodie illi, cras mihi. He fell today, I may stumble tomorrow.

A soul in meditation is on his way to prayer.

It is impossible for a naughty heart to think well of an afflicting God.

The great talkers of religion are oft the least doers.

Does thy heavenly Father keep so starved a house that the devil's scraps will go down with thee?
No truth but has some error next door.

No action so little, but we may in it do God or the devil some service, and therefore none too little for our care to be bestowed on.

It is not enough to have truth on our side, if we have not truth in our hearts.

Hypocrisy is a lie with a fair cover over it.

None sooner topple over into error, than such who have a dishonest heart with a nimble head. The richest soil, without culture, is most tainted with weeds.

Thou must live by thy faith, not another's. Labour to see truth with thy own eyes.

He that maintains any error from the Bible, bears false witness against God.

He that abandons the truth of God, renounceth the God of truth.

Error is short lived; "a lying tongue is but for a moment"; but truth's age runs parallel with God's eternity.

It is no matter what is the sign, though an angel, that hangs without, if the devil and sin dwell within.

Heaven is worth the having, though thou goest poor and ragged, yea, naked, thither.

The gospel, what is it, but God's heart in print.

The Christian's love to Christ takes fire at Christ's love to him. No such picklock to open the heart as love.

You never knew a man full of self-confidence and self-abasement together. The conscience cannot abound
 with a sense of sin, and the heart with self-conceit at the same time.

A temptation comes very forcibly when it runs with the tide of our own wills.

"Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him" (Prov. 26:12); of all fools the conceited fool is the worst. Pride makes a man incapable of receiving counsel.

Exercise thy faith, if thou meanest to preserve thy faith. We live by faith, and faith lives by exercise,
The devil is wily, thou hadst need be wary.

None long for heaven more than those that enjoy most of heaven.

"Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful" (Prov. 27:6). God's wounds cure; sin's kisses kill.

Never think to find honey in the pot, when God writes poison on the cover.

Sin disturbs the inward peace of the soul and the outward peace of the world.

Thou knowest, sinner, already, the best of thy sinful pleasure, but not the worst of thy punishment.

If thou wilt play the mountebank, choose not the pulpit for thy stage.

The less conscience barks at present, the more it will bite when it shall be unmuzzled.

Either use the world as if thou usedst it not, or you will pray as if you prayed not.

The faster a man rides if he be in a wrong road, the farther he goes out of his way.

He that is impatient, and cannot wait on God for a mercy, will not easily submit to Him in a denial.

Man's words will not break thy bones.

Cease to pray and thou wilt begin to sin. Prayer is not only a means to prevail for mercy, but also to prevent sin.

Where God is on one side, you may be sure to find the devil on the other.

He that shows any kindness to a saint, is sure to have God for his paymaster.

The work of salvation cannot be done by the candle-light of a natural understanding, but by the sunlight of a gospel revelation.

God had Nero a closer prisoner than he had Paul.

Error is but a day younger than truth.

Christ passeth oft by palaces to visit the poor cottages. Pilate missed Christ on the bench, while the poor thief finds Him, and heaven with Him, on the cross.

Ignorance is the mother of persecution.

That book must be worth reading, that has God for the author.

We must come to good works by faith, and not to faith by good works.

It was a charge long ago laid upon Christianity, that it was better known in leaves of books than in the lives of Christians.

It is better to die honourably than live shamefully.

It is easier to bow at the name, than to stoop to the cross of Jesus Christ.

The head may be ripe, and the heart rotten.

Prayer is a great heart-easer.

The sins of teachers are the teachers of sins.

20 April, 2018

Extracts from the writings of William Gurnall-PATIENCE AND HOPE

"Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." Romans 15:4.

HOPE has an eye that can see heaven in a cloudy day, and an anchor that can find firm land under a weight of waters to hold by; it can expect good out of evil.

True hope is a jewel that no one wears but Christ's bride; a grace with which no one is graced but the believer's soul. Christless and hopeless are joined together (Eph. 2:12).

We are directed to "take the helmet of salvation"; and this not for some particular occasion, and then hang it up till another extraordinary strait calls us to take it down, and use it again; but we must take it so as never to lay it aside, till God shall take off this helmet, to put on a crown of glory in the room of it. "Be sober, and hope to the end," is the apostle Peter's counsel (1 Peter 1:13).

The hope of heaven leaves a blot upon the world in the Christian's thoughts. He that looks on heaven, must needs look off earth. The soul's eye can as little as the body's be above and below at the same time. Here is not my hope, says the soul, and therefore not my haunt: my hope is in heaven, from whence I look for my Saviour, and my salvation to come with Him.

Hast thou heaven in hope? It is more than if thou hadst the whole world in hand. The greatest monarch the earth has will be glad, in a dying hour, to change his crown for thy helmet; his crown will not procure him this helmet, but thy helmet will bring thee to a crown; a crown not of gold, but of glory, which, once on, shall never be taken off.

Why are men dull and heavy in the service of God? Truly because their hopes are so. Hopeless and lifeless go together. No wonder the work goes hardly off hand, when men have no hope to be well paid for their labour. He that thinks he works for a song, will not sing at his work — I mean forward it. The best customer is sure to be served best and first; and him we count the best customer whom we hope will be the best paymaster. If God be thought so, we will leave all to do His business. Nothing better to clear the soul of sloth and listlessness of spirit in the service of God than hope well improved and strengthened. It is the very physic which the apostles prescribe for this disease: "We desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope to the end: that ye be not slothful" (Heb. 6:11, 12).

"What manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting to the coming of the day of God?" (2 Peter 3:11, 12). Live up to thy hopes, Christian; let there be a decorum kept between thy principles and thy practices — thy hope of heaven, and walk on earth. The eye should direct the foot. Thou lookest for salvation; walk the same way thy eye looks. There is a decorum, which if a Christian doth not observe in his walking, he betrays his high calling and hopes to scorn. To look high and live low, how ridiculous it appears!

Let thy hope of heaven moderate thy affections to earth. "Be sober, and hope," says the apostle (1 Peter 1:13). You that look for so much in another world, may be very well content with a little in this. Nothing more unbecomes a heavenly hope than an earthly heart.

I doubt not but every gracious person finds the nearer to heaven he gets in his hopes, the farther he goes from earth in his desires. When he stands upon these battlements of heaven, he can look down upon this dung-hill world as a little dust-heap, next to nothing.

Let thy hope of heaven conquer thy fear of death. Why shouldst thou be afraid to die, who hopest to live by dying? Is the apprentice afraid of the day when his time will be out? — he that runs a race, of coming too soon to his goal? — the pilot troubled when he sees his harbour? Death is all this to thee! Thy indenture expires, and thy Jubilee is come; thy race is run, and the crown won, and is sure to drop on thy head when thy soul goes out of thy body. Thy voyage, how troublesome soever it was in its sailing, is now happily finished, and death doth but land thy soul on the shore of eternity at thy heavenly Father's door, never to be put to sea more.

The Turks say, they do not think we Christians believe heaven to be such a glorious place as we profess and talk of; for, if we did, we would not be so afraid to go thither. Christian, understand aright what message death brings to thee, and the fear of it will be over; it snatcheth thee, indeed, from this world's enjoyments, but it leads thee to the felicities of another, incomparably better. And who, at a feast, will chide the servant that takes away the first course to make room for the second to be set on, that consists of far greater delicacies!

A sad heart does not become a living hope. Christ takes no more delight to dwell in a sad heart, than we in a dark house; therefore, let in the light which sheds its beams upon thee from the promise, or else thy sweet Saviour will be gone. We do not entertain our friends in a dark room, or sit by those who visit us mopish, lest they should think we are weary of their company. Christ brings such good news with Him, as may bespeak better welcome with thee than a disconsolate spirit.

Wouldst thou not have thy hope strong? Then keep thy conscience pure. Thou canst not defile one, without weakening the other. Living godly in this present world, and looking for the blessed hope laid up for us in the other, are both conjoined (Titus 2:13). A soul wholly void of godliness, must needs be as destitute of all true hope; and the godly person that is loose and careless in his holy walking will soon find his hope languishing. All sin disposeth the soul that tampers with it, to trembling fears, and shakings of heart. God forbid, Christian, that death should find thee wanton and negligent in thy walking, that he should surprise thee lying in the puddle of some sin! Can a bird fly, when one of its wings is broken? Faith and a good conscience are hope's two wings; if, therefore, thou hast wounded thy conscience by any sin, renew thy repentance, that so thou mayest exercise faith for the pardon of it, and redeem thy hope, when the mortgage that is now upon it shall be taken off. If a Jew had pawned his bedclothes, God provided mercifully, that it should be restored before night; "For," says he, "that is his covering; wherein shall he sleep?" (Ex. 22:27). Truly, hope is the saint's covering, wherein he wraps himself, when he lays his body down to sleep in the grave: "My flesh," says David, "shall rest in hope" (Ps. 16:9). A sad going to the bed of grave he has, who has no hope of a resurrection to life.

Hope is the handkerchief that God puts into His people's hands, to wipe the tears from their eyes, which their present troubles, and long stay of expected mercies, draw from them (Jer. 31:16, 17): "Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, says the Lord; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy. And there is hope in thine end."

"The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ" (2 Thess. 3:5). It is a way you will never find, a work you will never be able to do of yourselves thus to wait patiently till Christ come, "the Lord," therefore, "direct your hearts" into it. Love Him, and you will wait for Him. So Jude 21: "Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life."

19 April, 2018

Extracts from the writings of William Gurnall-PRAYER AND THANKSGIVING

PRAYER AND THANKSGIVING
"Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." Philippians 4:6.

PRAYER the sign of life. What is prayer, but the breathing forth of that grace which is breathed into the soul by the Holy Spirit? When God breathed into man the breath of life, he became a living soul; so when God breathes into the creature the breath of spiritual life, he becomes a praying soul: "Behold, he prays," says God of Paul to Ananias (Acts 9:11). Praying is the same to the new creature, as crying to the natural. The child is not learned by art to cry, but by nature — it comes into the world crying. Praying is not a lesson got by forms and rules of art, but flowing from principles of new life.

Prayer and reality. Prayer is an act in which we have immediately to do with the great God, to whom we approach in prayer. It is too sacred a duty to be performed between sleeping and waking, with a heavy eye or a drowsy heart; this God complained of: "There is none that calleth upon Thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of Thee" (Isa. 64:7). He counts it no prayer where the heart is not stirred up and awake. Our behaviour in prayer has an universal influence upon all the passages of our whole life; as a man is in prayer, so he is likely to be in all the rest; if he is careless in praying, then he is negligent in hearing and loose in his walking. Prayer is the channel, in which the stream of divine grace, blessing, and comfort, runs from God into the heart; dam up the channel and the stream is stopped.

Prayer and integrity. "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me" (Ps. 66:18). Now, when God refuseth to hear, we may be sure the Spirit refuseth to assist; for God never rejects a prayer which His Spirit indites. Hast thou defiled thyself with any known sin? Think not to have Him help thee in prayer, till He has helped thee to repent; He will carry thee to the laver before He goes with thee to the altar.

Take heed thou prayest not with a reservation: be sure thou renouncest what thou wouldst have God remit. . . . He that desires not to be purged from the filth of sin, prays in vain to be eased of the guilt. If we love the work of sin, we must take the wages. A false heart could be willing to have his sin covered, but the sincere desires his heart may be cleansed. David begged a clean heart as well as a quiet conscience: "Blot out all mine iniquities; create in me a clean heart, O God" (Ps. 51:9, 10). In nothing do our hearts more cheat us than in our prayers, and in no requests more than those which are levelled against our lusts. That is oftentimes least intended, which is most pretended. . . . The saint's prayer may miscarry from some secret grudge that is lodged in his heart against his brother.

Prayer and diligence. God has appointed prayer as a help to our diligence, not as a cloak for our sloth. Idle beggars are welcome neither to God's door nor man's. What! wilt thou lift up thy hands to God in prayer, and then put them in thy pocket? Is it a lust thou art praying against? And dost thou sit down idle to see whether it will now die alone? Will that prayer slay one lust, that lets another (thy sloth I mean) live under its nose? Dost thou think to walk loosely all day, yielding thyself, and betraying the glory of God into the hands of thy lust, and then mend all with a prayer at night?

O Christian, should it not make thee blush much more, to see the whole town up, and as busy as bees in a garden, one flying this way, and another that way, and all to bring a little more of this world's perishing pelf into their hive, out of which, death ere long will drive them, and force them to leave what with so much pains they have gathered for others; while thou sleepest away thy precious time, though thou art sure to carry thy gettings into the other world with thee, and there enjoy the fruit of thy short labour here, with everlasting glory!

Prayer and watching. He that prays and watcheth not, is like him that sows a field with precious seed, but leaves the gate open for hogs to come and rout it up. . . . "Watch and pray," says Christ to His disciples; He knew they could not do that work sleeping. But it is not enough to keep the eye awake, if thou sufferest it to wander: "Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way" (Ps. 119:37). To pray, and not watch what becomes of our prayer is a great folly, and no little sin. What is this but to take the name of God in vain? Yet thus do many knock at God's door, and then run away to the world and think no more of their prayers.

Prayer and perseverance. By "praying always" we are exhorted to the daily, constant exercise of prayer; by "praying with perseverance," we are pressed to bear up against discouragements, as to any particular request we may make at the throne of grace, and not to give over, though we have not a speedy answer to it; so that the former is opposed to a neglect of the duty in its stated seasons, and the latter to a fainting in our spirits, as to any particular suit we put up.

Prayer and supplication. "Praying . . . with all perseverance and supplication for all saints." In praying for saints you must pray for all: I do not mean for quick and dead; prayer is a means to wait upon them in their way; at death, when they are at their journey's end, prayers are useless, and the wicked in that estate are beneath, the saints above, our prayers; we cannot help the wicked, the tree is fallen, and so it must lie. We read of a change the body shall have after death. Vile bodies may, but filthy souls cannot after death be made glorious: if they leave the body filthy, so shall they meet it at the resurrection. As the wicked are beyond our help, so the saints are above all need of our help. . . . We are to love all saints, therefore to pray for all. The new creature never wants its new nature; if God loves all His children, then wilt thou all thy brethren, or not one of them. When Paul commends Christians for this grace of love, he doth it thus: (Eph. 1:15) "After I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love to all the saints." Now, if we love all, we cannot but pray for all.

Though we are to pray for all saints, yet some call for a more special remembrance at our hands: for instance, those that are near to us by bond of nature as well as of grace. "A brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more to thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord" (Philemon 16). You are to pray particularly for those that are in distress: whoever you forget, remember these: this is a fit season for love. A friend for adversity is as proper as fire for a winter's day: Job's friends chose the right time to visit him, but took not the right course of improving their visit: had they spent the time in praying for him which they did in hot disputes with him, they had profited him, and pleased God more.

Prayer and thanksgiving. Prayer is a means to dispose the heart to praise. When David begins a psalm with prayer, he commonly ends it with praise. That Spirit which leads a soul out of itself to God for supply, will direct it to the same God with His praise. We do not borrow money of one man and return it to another. If God has been thy strength, surely thou wilt make Him thy song. The thief comes not to thank a man for what he steals out of his yard. Mercies ill got are commonly as ill spent, because they are not sanctified, and so become fuel to feed lusts.

As a necessary ingredient in all our prayers: Let your requests be made known with thanksgiving (Phil. 4:6). This spice must be in all our offerings. He that prays for a mercy he wants, and is not thankful for mercies received, may seem mindful of himself, but is forgetful of God, and so takes the right course to shut his prayers out of doors. God will not put His mercies into a rent purse; and such is an unthankful heart.
Daniel, when in the very shadow of death, the plot being laid to take away his life, prayed three times a day, and gave thanks before his God (Dan. 6:10). To have heard him pray in that great strait would not have afforded so much matter for wonder; but to have his heart in tune for giving thanks in such a sad hour was admirable.

Prayer and trial. When prayer cannot prevail to keep a temporal mercy alive, yet it will have a powerful influence to keep thy heart alive when that dies. O, it is sad, when a man's estate and comfort are buried in the same grave together. None will bear the loss of an enjoyment so patiently, as he that was exercised in prayer while he had it. The more David prayed for his child while alive, the fewer tears he shed for it when dead.

Prayer and prosperity. Prayer is not a winter garment: it is then to be worn indeed, but not to be left off in the summer of prosperity. If you would find some at prayer, you must stay till it thunders and lightens; and not go to them except it be in a storm. Pray in prosperity, that thou mayest speed when thou prayest in adversity; own God now, that He may acknowledge thee then. Shall that friend be welcome to us, who never gives us a visit but when he comes to borrow? Pray in prosperity, that thou mayest not be ensnared by it. Prosperity is no friend to the memory, therefore we are cautioned so much to beware when we are full, lest we forget God. You shall find, in Scripture, that the saints have had their saddest falls on the most even ground. Noah, who had seen the whole world drowned in water, no sooner was safe on shore, but himself is drowned in wine. David's heart was fixed when in the wilderness, but his wanton eye rolled and wandered when he walked upon the terrace of his palace.

Morning and evening prayer. Prayer must be the key of the morning, and lock of the night. We show not ourselves Christians, if we do not open our eyes with prayer when we rise, and shut them again with the same key we lie down at night. Pray as often as you please besides.

If you will have fire for your evening sacrifice, labour to keep what is already on thy altar from going out. What you fill the vessel with you must expect to draw thence: if water be put in, we cannot, without a miracle, think to draw wine. What! art thou all day filling thy heart with earth (God being not in all thy thoughts), and dost thou look to draw heaven thence at night? He that is heavenly in his earthly employments, will be the less worldly in his heavenly. It was a sweet speech of a dying saint, that he was going to change his place but not his company.

Broken prayer. Sometimes thou hearest one pray with a moving expression, whilst thou canst hardly get out a few broken words in duty, and thou art ready to accuse thyself and to admire him; as if the gilt of the key made it open the door better. "Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed" (James 5:17). A weak hand with a sincere heart is able to turn the key in prayer.

Ejaculatory prayer. Ejaculatory prayer to God, is the short dagger thou art to use for thy defence against temptation, when thou hast no time to draw the long sword of solemn prayer. Thus thou mayest pray in any place, company, or employment.

Public prayer. When thou prayest before others, observe on what thou bestowest thy chief care and zeal, whether on the externals or internals of prayer; that which is exposed to the eye and ear of men, or that for the eye and ear of God; the devout posture of thy body, or the inward devotion of thy soul; the pomp of thy words, or the power of thy faith; the agitation of thy bodily spirits in the vehemency of thy voice, or the fervency of thy spirit in heartbreaking affections. These inward workings are the very soul of prayer. The sincere soul dares not be rude in his outward posture; he is careful of his words, that they may be grave and pertinent, neither would he pray them asleep who join with him, by a cold manner of delivering his prayer; but still it is the inward disposition of his heart he principally looks to, knowing well, that it is possible to warm in prayer, thereby benefiting others, and at the same time have his own heart cold and idle; therefore he doth not count he prays well, except he finds his own affections drawn out. The hypocrite, if he comes off the duty with the applause of others in the external performance, is well pleased.
Formal prayer. Take heed of formal praying, this is as baneful to grace as not praying. A plaster, though proper, and of sovereign virtue, yet if it be laid on cold, may do more hurt than good.
Dost thou think that God will welcome that prayer to heaven which has not thy heart to bear it company? And how can thy heart go with it, when thou hast sent it another way? Will God hear thee when thou mockest Him? And if this be not to mock Him, what is? Like children that give a knock at a door, and then run away to their play again; thus thou raisest thy voice to God, and then are gone in thy roving thought to hold converse with the world, or worse. Is not this trifling with God? Satan disturbs thee in praying, that he may make thee weary of praying. Indeed he is not likely to miss his mark, if thou lettest these vermin go on to breed in thy heart; for these will rob thee of the sweetness of prayer; and when the marrow is once out, thou wilt easily be persuaded to throw the bone away. He is in danger to forsake his meat, who has lost his relish for it. Prayer is a tedious work for him who has no pleasure in it: and weariness in it stands next door to weariness of it.
The best way to keep vessels from leaking is to let them stand full. A vain heart out of prayer, will be little better in prayer. Walk in the company of sinful thoughts all the day, and thou wilt hardly shut the door upon them, when thou goest into thy closet. Thou hast taught them to be bold; they will now plead acquaintance with thee, and crowd in after thee, like little children, who if you play with them, will cry after you when you would be rid of their company.

Beware that thy constant daily prayer doth not degenerate into a lifeless formality. What we do commonly we are prone to do slightly. He is a rare Christian that keeps his course in prayer, and yet grows not to pray of mere course. He that watcheth his heart all day, is most likely to find it in tune for prayer at night; whereas loose walking breeds lazy praying.

Never was any formal prayer of the Holy Spirit's making; when He comes it is a time of life.
Lengthy prayer. Pray often rather than very long. It is difficult to remain long in prayer, and not slacken in our affections. Especially observe this in social prayers; for when we pray in company, we must consider them that travel with us: as Jacob said: "I will lead on softly, as the children are able to endure."
Hindrances to prayer. There is an antipathy between sinning and praying. The child that has misspent the day in play abroad, steals to bed at night, for fear of a chiding from his father. Sin and prayer are such contraries, that it is impossible at one stride to step from one to another.

Another method Satan has to make the Christian put off prayer is some worldly business that is to be dispatched. Take heed of overcharging thyself with worldly business, which is done when thou graspest more thereof than will consist with thy Christian calling. God allows thee to give to the world that which is the world's, but He will not suffer thee to pay the world that which is due to Him. We could not easily want time to pray, if our hearts would but persuade our heads to devise and study how our other affairs might be disposed of without prejudice to our devotions. That cloth which a bungler thinks too little for a garment, a good workman can make one of it, and leave some for another use also. O, there is a great deal of art in cutting out time with little loss. Some look upon every minute of time spent in the closet, as lost in the shop. Does the husbandman mow the less for whetting his scythe? Doth a good grace before meat spoil the dinner? No: nor doth prayer hinder the Christian either in his employments or enjoyments, but expedites the one, and sanctifies the other. "Acknowledge God in all thy ways, and lean not to thy own understanding."

Godliness has the "promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come" (1 Tim. 4:8). This earth below, to a saint, is a land of promise, though not the land that is chiefly promised. God has not promised him heaven, and left him to the wide world to shift for his outward subsistence; He has not bid them live by faith, for their souls, and live by their wits, for their bodies. No; He that has promised to give him "grace and glory," has also said, "No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly" (Ps. 84:11). Their bill of fare here is provided as well as their inheritance hereafter.

Neglect of prayer. When Saul had given over inquiring after God, we hear him knocking at the devil's door, and asking counsel of a witch. Take heed of living near the tempter! If Satan might have his wish, surely it would be this, that the creature might live prayerless.

Satan cannot but deny but great wonders have been wrought by prayer. As the spirit of prayer goes up, so his kingdom goes down. Satan's stratagems against prayer are three. First, If he can, he will keep thee from prayer. If that be not feasible, secondly, he will strive to interrupt thee in prayer. And, thirdly, if that plot takes not, he will labour to hinder the success of thy prayer.

"Thou castest off fear, and restrainest prayer before God" (Job 15:4). Eliphaz's doctrine was true, though his application was false. Sins of commission are the usual punishments that God inflicts on persons for sins of omission: he that leaves a duty, may fear to be left to commit a crime: he that turns his ear from the truth, takes the ready course to be given over to believe fables (2 Tim. 4:4): he that casteth off prayer, it is a wonder if you find him not, ere long, cast into some foul sin.

Answers to prayer. He has engaged to answer the prayers of His people, and fulfil the desires of them that fear Him (Ps. 145:19); but it proves a long voyage sometimes before the praying saint has the return of his adventure. There comes often a long and sharp winter between the sowing time of prayer and the reaping. He hears us, indeed, as soon as we pray, but we often do not hear of Him so soon. Prayers are not long on their journey to heaven, but long coming thence in a full answer. Never was faithful prayer lost at sea. No merchant trades with such certainty as the praying saint. Some prayers, indeed, have a longer voyage than others, but then they come with the richer lading at last.

Sometimes we have speedy return of prayers — "In the day that I cried, thou answeredst me." While the church were at God's door praying for Peter's deliverance, Peter is knocking at theirs, to tell them their prayer is heard.

18 April, 2018

Extracts from the writings of William Gurnall-READING AND MEDITATION


READING AND MEDITATION

"Give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. . . . Meditate upon these things." 1 Timothy 4:13-15.
MEDITATION is to the sermon what the harrow is to the seed, it covers those truths which else might have been picked or washed away.

An affectionate hearer will not be a forgetful hearer. Love helps the memory: Can a woman forget her child, or a maid her ornaments, or a bride her attire? No, they love them too well; were the truths of God thus precious to thee, thou wouldst with David think of them day and night. Even when the Christian, through weakness of memory, cannot remember the very words he hears, to repeat them; yea, then he keeps the power and savour of them in his spirit, as when sugar is dissolved in wine you cannot see it, but you may taste it; when meat is eaten and digested, it is not to be found as it was received, but the man is cheered and strengthened by it, more able to walk and work than before, by which you may know it is not lost: so you may taste the truths the Christian heard, in his spirit, see them in his life.

Till the heart be touched the mind will not be fixed. Therefore you may observe, it is said, God opened the heart of Lydia "that she attended" (Acts 16:14). The mind goes of the will's errand; we spend our thoughts on what our hearts propose. If the heart has no sense of its ignorance, or no desires after God, no wonder such a one listens not what the preacher says, his heart sends his mind another way. "They sit before thee as my people," says God, "but their heart goes after their covetousness."

When the soul stands upon this Pisgah of meditation, looking by an eye of faith, upon all the great and precious things laid up by a faithful God for him, it is easy to despise the world's love and wrath; but, alas! it is hard for us to go up thither who are so shortbreathed, and soon tired with a few steps up this mount of God. Would we but frequently retire from the world, and bestow some of that time in secret waiting upon God, which we lavish out upon inferior pleasures, and entertainments of the creature, we should invite God's Holy Spirit to us. Let a wicked man set up a lust for his thoughts to dally with, and the devil will soon be at his elbow to assist him. And shall we not believe the Holy Spirit as ready to lend His helping hand to a holy meditation? Doubtless He is. Spread thou thy sails and the Spirit will fill them with His heavenly breath. Be thou but careful to provide fuel, gather matter for meditation, set thy thoughts at work upon it, and the Spirit of God will kindle thy affections. "While I was musing," says David, "the fire burned" (Ps. 39:3).

Meditation fills the heart with heavenly matter, but prayer gives the discharge and pours it forth upon God. . . . Meditation is prayer's handmaid, to wait on it before and after the performance. It is as the plough before the sower, to prepare the heart for the duty of prayer, and as the harrow to cover the seed when it is sown.

Deadness in the heart of a saint will damp his zeal, if not cleared by daily watchfulness. Look, therefore, narrowly whence thy cooling comes; perhaps thy heart is too much let out upon the world in the day, and at night thy spirits are spent, when thou shouldst be in prayer. If thou wilt be hotter in duty, thou must be colder towards the world. Now, there is no better way for this, than to set thy soul under the frequent meditation of Christ's love to thee, thy relation to Him, with the great and glorious things thou expectest from Him; but if you let your heart continue soaking in the thoughts of an inordinate love to the world, you will find when you come to pray, that your hearts will be as a wet log at the back of a fire, long in kindling, and soon out again. Perhaps the deadness of thy heart in prayer ariseth from not having a deep sense of thy wants, and the mercies thou art in need of. Couldst thou but pray feelingly, thou wouldst pray fervently. The hungry man needs no help to teach him how to beg.

Prize the word, feed on the word, whether it be in public, or in a conference with some Christian friend, or in secret reading and meditation by thy solitary self. Let none of these be disused, or carnally used by thee. When thy stomach fails to the word, thy faith must needs begin to fail onthe word.

But you will say, If we had so much time to spare as others, we would not be so unacquainted with the Scriptures. Could God find heart and time to pen and send this love-letter to thee, and thou find none to read and peruse it! The sick man no time to look on his physician's prescription! The condemned malefactor to look on his prince's letter of grace, wherein a pardon is signed! Must the world have all thy time and swallow thee up alive! Art thou such a slave to thy pelf, as to tie thy soul to thy purse strings; and take no more time for the saying of it, than this cruel master will afford thee! Who gave thee leave thus to overlade thyself with the incumbrance of the world? Is not God the Lord of thy time? Why did you not read My word, and meditate thereon? will Christ say at that day. Darest thou, then, be so impudent as to say, Lord, I was overcharged with the cares, and drunk with the love of the world, and, therefore, I could not! Well, if this be the thief that robs thee of thy time, get out of his hands, lest it also rob thee of thy soul. What calling more encumbering than a soldier's, and of all the soldiers, the general's? Such an one was Joshua, yet he had a strict command given him to study the Scriptures: (Joshua 1:8) "This book shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night." Must Joshua, in the midst of drums and trumpets, and distractions of war, find time to meditate on the law of God, and shall a few trivial occasions in thy private calling discharge thee from the same duty?

Take heed thou comest not to the Scriptures with an unholy heart. If ever you know the mind of God in His word, the Spirit must impart it to you. And will He that is so holy take thee by thy foul hand, to lead thee into truth? No, thy doom is set, "None of the wicked shall understand" (Dan. 12:10). If we have the truth for our guest, and be acquainted with the mind and will of God, we must have a holy heart for its lodging!

Go to God by prayer for a key to unlock the mysteries of His word. It is not the plodding but the praying soul, that will get this treasure of scripture knowledge. God often brings a truth to the Christian's hand as a return of prayer, which he had long hunted for in vain with much labour and study: "There is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets" (Dan. 2:28); and where doth He reveal the secrets of His word but at the throne of grace? "From the first day," says the angel, "that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words"; that is for thy prayer (Dan. 10:12). And what was this heavenly messenger's errand to Daniel but to open more fully the Scripture to him? as appears by verse 14 compared with verse 21. This holy man had got some knowledge by his study in the word, and this sets him apraying, and prayer fetched an angel from heaven to give him more light.

"Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee" (Ps. 119:11). It was not the Bible in his hand to read it, not the word on his tongue to speak of it; but the hiding it in his heart, that he found effectual against sin.

"Quench not the Spirit, despise not prophesyings" (1 Thess. 5:19, 20). They are coupled together; he that despiseth one loseth both. If the scholar be too proud to learn of the usher, he is unworthy to be taught by the master.

"They shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned to fables" (2 Tim. 4:3, 4). Satan commonly stops the ear from hearing sound doctrine, before he opens it to embrace corrupt.

17 April, 2018

Extracts from the writings of William Gurnall - SERVANTS AND SERVICE

 SERVANTS AND SERVICE
"He that has My word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? says the Lord." — Jeremiah 23:28.

PREACH the truth. Take heed of giving thy own dreams and fancies in God's name. All is chaff except the pure word of God. Oh stamp not God's image on thine own coin! We live in high-flown times: many people are not content with truths that lie plainly in the Scriptures; and some, to please their wanton palates, have sublimated their notions so high, that they have flown out of the sight of the Scripture, and unawares run themselves, with others, into dangerous errors. Make not experiments upon the souls of people, by delivering what is doubtful. Better feed people with sound doctrine though it be a plain meal, than that thou shouldst, with an outlandish dish, light on a wild gourd, that brings death into their pot.
Preach with the fear of God. A little bread, with God's blessing, may make a meal for a multitude; and great provision may soon shrink to nothing, if God help not in the breaking of it. It is not thy sermon in thy head, or notes in thy book, that will enable thee to preach, except God open thy mouth; acknowledge, therefore, God in all thy ways, and lean not to thy own understanding: the swelling of the heart, as well as of the wall, goes before a fall. How much may it provoke God, when thou goest to the pulpit, and passest by his door in the way, without calling for His assistance? . . . Not only the preparation of the heart, but the answer of the tongue, both are from the Lord (Prov. 16:1). God keeps the key of the mouth as well of the heart; not a word can be uttered, until God opens the door of the lips to give it a free egress. He opened the mouth of the ass, and stopped the mouth of that wicked prophet, its master (Num. 22:28-31): hear him confess as much to Balak: "Lo, I am come to thee: have I now any power at all to say anything? the word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak" (verse 38).

Preach without fear of man. There is nothing more unworthy than to see a people bold to sin, and the preacher afraid to reprove them. It is said of Tacitus, that he took the same liberty to write the emperors' lives, that they took in leading them.

Man-pleasing is both endless and needless. If thou wouldst thou couldst not please all; and if thou couldst, there is no need, if thou pleasest Him that can turn all their hearts and bind their hands. They speed best that dare be faithful. Jonah was afraid of his work: O, he durst not go to such a great city with such a sad message: to tell them that they should be destroyed, was to set them at work to destroy him that brought the news; but how near was he to losing his life by running away to save it? Jeremiah seemed the only man likely to lose his life by his bold preaching; yet he had fairer quarter at last than the smooth preachers of his time. If thou art free and bold, thou mayest, indeed, be mocked by some, but thou wilt be reverenced by more: yea, even they that wag their heads at thee, carry that in their conscience which will make them fear thee: they are the flattering preachers who become base among the people (Mal. 2:9). It is not wisdom to provoke the judge, by flattering the prisoner.

Where one says, How shall I do this and sin against God? many in their hearts say, How shall I do this and anger man? Herod feared John, and did many things; had he feared God he would have laboured to have done everything.

Fall to the work God sets thee about, and thou engagest His strength for thee. "The way of the Lord is strength." Run from thy work and thou engagest God's strength against thee; He will send some storm or other after thee to bring home His runaway servant. How oft has the coward been killed in a ditch, or under some hedge, when the valiant soldier that stood his ground and kept his place, got off with safety and honours?

Preach with a good conscience. Keep a clear conscience: he cannot be a bold reprover, that is not a conscientious liver; such a one must speak softly, for fear of waking his own guilty conscience. Unholiness in the preacher's life, either will stop his mouth from reproving, or the people's ears from receiving. Oh how harsh a sound does such a cracked bell make in the ears of his auditors!

Preach definitely. He is the better workman, who drives one nail home with reiterated blows, than he which covets to enter many, but fastens none. Such preachers are not likely to reach the conscience, who hop from one truth to another, but dwell on none. Were I to buy a garment in a shop, I should like him better that lays one good piece or two before me that are for my turn, which I may fully examine, than him who takes down all his shop, and heaps piece upon piece, merely to show his store, till at last for variety I can look attentively on none, they lie so one upon another.

Preach faithfully. The preacher must read and study people as diligently as any book in his study; and as he finds them, dispense like a faithful steward to them. People complain, we are so oft reproving the same error or sin; and the fault is their own, because they will not leave it. Who will blame the dog for continuing to bark, when the thief is all the while in the yard? Alas, alas, it is not once or twice rousing against sin will do it!

"It is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful" (1 Cor. 4:2). The preacher's faithfulness stands in relation to him that intrusts him. It is very unlikely that a steward, in giving out provision, should please all the servants in the house; such officers have least thanks when they do their work best. He that thinks to please men, goes about an endless and needless work. A wise physician seeks to cure, not to please his patient. He that chides when he is sick, for the bitterness of the potions, will give thee thanks for it when he is recovered.

Preach simply. The word of God is too sacred a thing, and preaching too solemn a work, to be toyed and played with, as is the usage of some, who make a sermon but matter of wit and fine oratory. Their sermon is like a child's doll, from which if you take its dress, the rest is worth nothing. It is well indeed when the people can keep pace with the preacher. To preach truths and notions above the hearers' capacity, is like a nurse that should go to feed a child with a spoon too big to go into its mouth.

Preach wisely. "Because the preacher was wise, he . . . sought to find out acceptable words" (Eccles. 12:9, 10). Not rude, loose, and indigested stuff, in a slovenly manner brought forth, lest the sluttery of the cook should turn the stomachs of the guests.

Preach gently. "The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle to all, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves" (2 Tim. 2:24, 25). Oh how careful is God that nothing should be in the preacher to prejudice the sinner's judgment, or harden his heart against the offer of His grace! If the servant be proud and hasty, how shall they know that the Master is meek and patient? He that will take the bird must not scare it. A forward, peevish messenger is no friend to him that sends him. Sinners are not pelted into Christ with stones of hard provoking language, but wooed into Christ by heart-melting exhortations.

The oil makes the nail drive without splitting the board. The word never enters the heart more kindly, than when it falls most gently: "Ride prosperously, because of truth and meekness" (Ps. 45:4). Be as rough to thy people's sins as thou canst, so thou be gentle to their souls. Dost thou take the rod of reproof into thine hand? Let them see that love, not wrath, gives the blow. The word preached comes, indeed, best from a warm heart.

"The words of wise men are heard in quiet" (Ecc. 9:17). Let the reproof be as sharp as thou wilt; but the spirit must be meek. Passion raiseth the blood of him that is reproved; but compassion turns his bowels. We must not denounce wrath in wrath.

Preach diligently. All the water is lost that runs beside the mill, and all thy thoughts are waste which help thee not to do God's work withal in thy general or particular calling. The bee will not sit on a flower where no honey can he sucked, neither should the Christian. Why sittest thou here idle? thou shouldst say to thy soul, when thou hast so much to do for God and thy soul, and so little time to despatch it in?